How to Achieve the Greatest Honor
So you wanna be a doctor…
You know it’s going to take years to become licensed, but how many exactly?
After you have gone to high school, and:
- earned your bachelor’s degree
- graduated medical school
- completed a residency
at least 11 years would have passed.
Here is where the years go:
Before The Game: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree – 4 years
Four years to prepare your brain for the harsh education in medical school. Hence the “pre-med” — which is the title for an aspiring doctor in undergraduate school. You don’t have to major in a science subject to be a “pre-med,” as long as the required classes are being taken. Yet majority of those students who are becoming a doctor generally major in a medical-related subject since the subject matter interests them enough to want to go to medical school.
Intense Training: Medical School – 4 years
Becoming a doctor will involve getting your brain blown up with never-ending facts. You may possibly regret every decision you’ve ever made, every medical show you’ve ever watched, every minute you’ve spent researching schools. The days are long and the studies are never-ending. Yet those who survive get the greatest honor one can imagine – the white coat.
The first two years are mostly excruciating study hours with information beyond what you thought existed. Initially you’re taught about the healthy body. As you enter the second year you’re pushed even further with classes on abnormalities.
For every year, every semester that makes you feel it isn’t worth it, you also experience the rewarding excitement that switches the burden to a fulfilling journey. Discoveries throughout the process are mind-blowing, and remind you of why you wanted to become a doctor to start with. The amazement is what keeps you moving through the impossible parts. The wonder of the body, of advanced medicine, of the beauty of a single life, are all are studied — not only with endurance, but with enthusiasm.
After you’ve learned the “basics,” you start being able to make connections and think like a doctor. That in itself is a major goal. It doesn’t earn a certificate, but is the reason you push onward to receive one at the end.
In the third and fourth year rotations, you finally get to play along and practice up close. You get to stand in a premium spot next to the operating table or freshly born neonate, and observe your future – what you might officially be doing in just a few years. No other person can ever get a chance to carry out all those tasks without a license. Yet you can. You can because you are in medical school. And suddenly, the impossible has been passed.
In The Ring: Residency – 3+ years
Your residency training in the hospital is for your specialty. Because you have passed the tests and earned your license for becoming a doctor, more hands-on training is required before you can officially become autonomous and take responsibility for the patient. Here is where you’re finally able to do what you’ve been dreaming of.
In the first year of residency you are considered an intern. The rest of the years – up to 6 (depending on the specialty) you are referred to as “the resident.” It’s also the years when you finally start getting paid.
This (possibly hardest) step attempts to break down what’s left of your body, and demands hours of focus despite the time, the temperature, and even your ability. It murderously kills the crumbs that are left of your stamina, and tests it up until where the stress would crush you. You’ll get the worst hours there are, and maybe endure abusive treatment from the attending physician. All you can do at that point is suck it up, focus on the patient, and keep pushing for the final goal. You’ll remember that once you open up your private practice, it can’t get any worse. It will help your survival through this brutish end-of-training marathon. Residency is standing in the midst of chaos – horrifying for most people, but beautiful for you.
Rematch: Fellowship – 1 or 2 years
After completing residency, a doctor, which is what you’ll be at this point, may finally choose to begin his/her practice. Other doctors who are in no rush might want to expand their education and skills. Those will become a “Fellow” and get additional training in a sub-specialty.
For example, a pediatric urologist’s process: Dr John Doe, Pediatric Urologist
How he got his title
After graduating med school, he got the “Dr” added to his name.
Five years of residency gave him his “urologist” title.
Completing a year of fellowship earned him his “pediatric” extension.
The Winner: Ready for Practice
Medicine is a practice. It is not something you can study for and then just move on. Even after graduation, physicians have to be re-certified every few years. Keep on practicing and using your experiences to become a better physician.
So technically, yes, becoming a doctor takes eleven years. But during the first few years, you are already getting to do what you have always wanted to. It’s the journey itself that makes it so rewarding. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates it is also financially rewarding. The Bureau reports that as of 2017, you could earn up to $200,000 annually. The profession itself is also growing at a rate of 13%, which is faster than average.
Then, once the white coat is on, your back has never been straighter because you have earned the greatest honor.
Once you are a doctor, you may want to learn how to be a surgeon.